The SunPod Garden
May 22, 2019
Feb 15, 2018
The greenhouse is the best place to be on a dark February day. It is bright and optimistic and full of promise. In the greenhouse you can feel the changing season and the extra light and warmth. There are some great ways to spend some time out there in these weeks.
February is a good time to start your earliest seeds. They will need extra bottom heat from heat cables or heat mats. This helps the seedbed stay warm for optimum germination. Clear plastic domes that cover the seedling trays are also recommended as they aid germination by keeping the moisture and temperature steady. These need to be vented daily to avoid damping off and can be removed soon after the seeds have germinated.
It is a good time to take stock of which plants have survived so far and which could be transplanted and given an early start. I have begun to transplant cuttings and divisions of some of my hardiest plants. Last year’s perennials that were started by seed and cuttings taken last summer are ready to be potted up. When this is done so early you will have big robust plants for planting out in a few months.
Consider visiting your favourite local nursery for the first flowers that are available. Although most of these flowers will survive outside, they perform best under cover in the greenhouse where they can enjoy the warmer temperatures and extra protection from cold wind and rain. I enjoy having these early pots of flowers as they bring joy and colour and are great inspiration for the season to come.
It is also a good time for direct seeding in the greenhouse. Try starting some early food crops in the ground and or in containers. I like to direct seed Sugar Ann Snap Peas. These Peas do not require trellising as they only grow 2 feet or 60 cm. They are an excellent early producer. Lettuce, Spinach, Swiss Chard, Kale, and Dill are other good early food crops.
2018 Photos and Copy by Rachel Lloyd
Feb 1, 2018
Remember to include some flowers in your seed orders this year. Flowers bring colourful joy and life to an otherwise plain edible garden plan. There are many ways to include both annual and perennial flowers in all kinds of gardens. Plant flowers to attract specific beneficial insects to enhance pollination, as companions to enhance yield and taste, for edible pretty additions to salads, and for fresh cut flowers to enhance your living space.
Companion planting means pairing two or more known varieties of herbs, flowers and vegetables which when planted together benefit each other by increasing yields, health and taste. I have found that the cucumbers I have inter-planted with sunflowers are sweeter and produce for a longer period than those planted without sunflowers. In a smaller garden the variety Pacino Cola is a delightful dwarf addition.
Edible flowers are a popular trend right now. Some easy varieties to consider are Nasturtium, Viola, Calendula and Borage. All of these are easy to add fresh to salads. Try freezing violas or borage flowers in ice cubes for fancy summer drinks. Violas, Pansies, Dianthus and Rose petals are increasingly used in desserts.
I also include flowers for fresh cutting. There are many varieties that are bred especially for long vase life and it is well worth the effort to grow these from seed. Some of my favourite annuals are the Benary Giant Zinnias, Larkspur QIS series, Princess Asters, Salpiglossis and Sunflower Valentine. While perennial flowers such as, Pacific Giants Delphiniums, Siberian irises, Peonies and most forms of Dianthus and Rudbeckia make wonderful easy to grow cut flowers.
Copy and photos 2007-2018 by Rachel Lloyd
Jan 28, 2018
There are many ways to include tomatoes in your landscape, even on a balcony, patio or rooftop. There are a wide variety of tomatoes to choose from that suit many different conditions.
Have you always wanted to grow tomatoes but think you don’t have the right environment? Or do you love the idea of growing tomatoes but have never tried?
Tomatoes are easy to grow if you choose a variety suited to your situation and climate and follow a few necessary steps.
First, distinguish whether you want a determinate or indeterminate (or cordon) tomato.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow all season without reaching a final height and need to be staked or tied up. They are taller and produce many flower bracts for fruit all season. Indeterminates are best grown in the ground where they have room.
Determinate Tomatoes grow to a determined height and produce one full crop of tomatoes that ripen at the same time. Determinates are excellent patio and container varieties for people with small growing spaces.
There are also many words to describe what size and shape a tomato is. For example, Cherry tomatoes are smaller, often bite-sized tomatoes and Romas have a distinctive long shape.
Tomatoes are a heat-loving crop and are not tolerant of cooler weather. They do however need to be started in February to achieve fruit in the early summer. I recommend planting tomatoes as early as you can, particularly if you are not growing under cover, to avoid late ripening tomatoes that are more susceptible to blight.
Start seeds in a good organic seed medium and place them on bottom heat mats. Cover with a dome to keep the soil medium moist until germination.
Tomato seedlings grow very slowly and it is best not to transplant them until they have three sets of true leaves.
If you have not included worm castings in your seed mix, be sure to give them a seaweed feed when the first true leaves have formed.
After the seedlings have been transplanted, they will grow more quickly and will continue to need bottom heat until the last deep frost.
When you finally plant them out into containers or in the ground, give them a comprehensive organic amendment mix that includes bone meal.
Tomatoes also do well when companion planted with Basil and French Marigolds.
Some of my favourite tomato varieties are:
Black Cherry-a hardy variety from Siberia. Black Cherry is indeterminate and is the only tomato in our 2007 trials that produced sweet fruit without an extended hot period that summer.
Gardener’s Delight- a sweet, red, indeterminate cherry tomato that crops reliably throughout the summer. It is also a low acid variety.
Hardy Red Cherry- a sweet hardy tomato that is good for smaller spaces and lasts well into the fall without splitting.
Brandywine- a large pinky-red, indeterminate tomato. Often referred to as the ugly tomato because the shoulders grow over. This tomato is so delicious and is a real treat in mid summer when we often have tomato slices big enough to fit a whole slice of bread.
Patio- a sweet, fruity, red determinate tomato that is short and perfect for containers. These grew really well in my SunPod Signature last summer.
Copy and Photos 2007-2018 by Rachel Lloyd
Jan 18, 2018
Often thought of as the smaller, less dashing cousin to the flamboyant Pansy, Violas are well worth a closer look. I am always taken with the fineness of their blooms, their rich colours and their hardiness in wet windy conditions.
They are easy to grow from seed and can be started at different times of year for an almost continuous display year round (under cover in the winter). Original varieties were more of a cool weather plant but the newer varieties are bred to withstand the warmer weather as it heats up in the spring and summer and they continue to bloom heartily.
Violas are edible and can be used as an addition to drinks, desserts and salads. As the flowers are small they can be served whole and remain in good condition. They are the most colourful of the edible flower families and have a lovely fresh pollen flavor.
I have been growing violas from seed and nursery purchased plants for many years.
A current favourite is Viola odorata “Delft Blue”. It is named for its fine blue and white colouring as in Delft blue china. It has a compact habit and flowers abundantly for long periods of time, even after the weather warms up.
Another long time favourite is today tomorrow yesterday. This variety changes colour in the days after it begins to bloom and all of the variations are delightful. They look especially nice planted en masse as the colours can be truly viewed this way.
I re-seeded Delft Blue Violas in September and now have them growing in my full size SunPod greenhouse. These Violas growing under cover have kept blooming, even through the freezing temperatures outside. I continue to add them to salads and so appreciate the especially colourful fresh addition during the winter months.
Copy and photos 2018 By Rachel Lloyd